When you're a center in the NFL you better have a good ability to anchor down and hold your ground when it comes to facing the bull rush. It's often easier said than done at the pro level when the likes of Kris Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, Vince Wilfork or Jamal Williams are coming at you.
Cal pivot man Alex Mack is confident he'll be able to handle that assignment and most NFL scouts agree, which is why he figures to be the first center off the board on draft weekend.
"It's going to be a challenge," said Mack of handling 350-plus pound defenders. "Anytime you face a tough opponent, every time there is some tough D-lineman, it's a challenge and technique is something that I used at Cal to help me get there. Using technique can really help you defeat the really heavy guys, the powerful guys. It's about being a technically sound player that really makes you be a good lineman."
With a solid lower body build and the school record holder with a 374-pound power clean, Mack certainly has the strength to prove he can hang with the dominant run pluggers in the NFL despite being just 307 pounds.
Mack credits his wrestling background for helping him excel in that area.
"I think it's really helped me be a successful football player," said Mack. "Wrestling really helps you with leverage, about how to control someone, where their weight is, where your weight is, how to move that person. It also taught me how to work hard. Wrestling is a tough sport and it's one-on-one, you versus another guy. So if you lose, you can only blame yourself. It taught me how to work hard, how to do certain things. It taught me how to be mean, I think."
In high school Mack was a CIF heavyweight champion and advanced to California's state wrestling tournament after posting a 26-1 record. Though he considered wrestling in college, he chose to focus on football.
With intangibles that are off the charts, Mack also has a strong academic resume with the awards to back it up.
Not only was Mack a unanimous All-Pac 10 first team player and a repeat winner of the conference's Morris Blocking Trophy, he was also named to the Academic All-Pac 10 first team. In addition he was chosen as the Pac 10 Scholar Athlete of the Year.
The biggest honor he received however, was the Draddy Trophy, given to college football's top scholar-athlete, which includes a $25,000 post-graduate scholarship.
"The Draddy is just special to me because it recognizes the sacrifices I've made for the classroom," said Mack, who intends to pursue a Master's degree in education.
Scouts to a man agree that his classroom intelligence translates seamlessly to football as he's able to digest complex schemes quickly and implement them. He also showed some versatility when he willingly moved to guard during his week at the Senior Bowl.
"I got to get some good playing time at guard and show that I can be a versatile lineman and play a lot of positions," Mack said. "I want to show that I can handle a new position and at the guard position, I think I can really do well and giving me that chance at the Senior Bowl was a great opportunity so I took that with open arms."
And open arms is what most NFL teams have for Mack as a football player, including the Bills, who Mack confirmed made his acquaintance at the Combine back in February.
"The Bills was one of those 'Get to know you' sessions," he said. "I talked to them about the players who are already on the Bills. I know they have Langston (Walker) and Marshawn Lynch. There is a history of Cal people playing there."
That Cal history included the center that he succeeded at Berkeley in Marvin Philip, who was signed in January.
Knowing he doesn't choose which NFL team he'll be playing for, Mack is certainly not playing favorites. Instead he's just selling what he believes he can do for whatever NFL team pulls him off the board.
"I'm a hard-working guy who will become a good player," Mack said. "I'll be in the NFL and not "kind" of be there, but I'll be there to succeed, to work hard and be one of the best players around. I think I'm known for being an aggressive offensive lineman as far as finishing plays, playing to the whistle. In my play, I have a lot of offer."